The small, one room Russell Memorial Library, dedicated on July 18, 1971, was the gift of Dr. George A. Russell in memory of his father, Albert P. Russell. Located across the highway from the town hall on the Monkton Ridge Road (VT Route 116) the library has a history closely associated with the Russell family.
In 1905, the elder Russell, whose ancestors settled in Monkton about 1875, started the first library. It operated out of his son Harvey’s home before being relocated to the town hall. In 1970, George set money aside for a separate library building, and the following year construction was completed and circulation began.
Harvey, and his wife Celia, donated the site while Lee, Harvey’s brother, worked with him to raise the building. The two men, who were farmers in town, finished the interior and built book cases into the walls. Their fine carpentry adds to the charm of the comfortably furnished reading area, paneled walls, and oak floor.
The white clapboard building is simple Classical Revival in style with a columned porch, hip roof, and windows that look over rural views and mountains.
In 1992, The Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Association (VOSHA) ordered the building closed after discovering that a main support beam had rotted. A sign was put up on the Monkton Bristol Road in the center of the town to solicit funds for the $8,000 – $10,000 repair job. It appealed in large letters : *SAVE OUR LIBRARY* FOUNDATION IS CRUMBLING. DONATE TO BLDG. FUND THRU TOWN CLERK. Librarian Debra Chamberlin noted that it was daunting goal for a library with an annual operating budget of just $3,000, but they succeeded. The library closed for six months in 1993 for construction, then reopened to provide current best sellers for adults and services and entertainment for children.
Fun Fact: Dr. Russell, reputed to be Norman Rockwell’s model for the painting “The Family Doctor,” owned a camp in Monkton on nearby Cedar Lake/Monkton Pond. He distinguished himself as a physician in Arlington where he donated another library, the world-famous George A. Russell Collection of Vermontiana.
From “Where the Books Are: History and Architecture of Vermont’s Public Libraries with Photos and Anecdotes” by Patricia Belding, with photographs by John C. Belding, published 1996.
What do you do at the library?
I have a lot of fun greeting patrons, recommending books to people, purchasing and selecting new books that I think our patrons would like, and also supervising the other librarians and volunteers, if they need it.
What first brought you to the library?
When I first moved to Monkton, I saw that there was a library and I came and noticed that it wasn’t open, so I went to the Town Clerk and asked why. She said that they needed a librarian, so I applied for the job. I saw it as a chance to serve the community. The rest is history.
What do you do in your free time?
I enjoy reading, gardening, kayaking, hiking, sewing, paper crafting, and teaching enrichment programs to preschool and elementary-age kids.
What book genres do you know best?
Picture books are my specialty, but I also know YA fiction, literary fiction, mystery novels, particularly nature based ones, and survival themed non-fiction pretty well. I also read quite a lot of memoir, and I have a real soft spot for post-apocalyptic stories.
What are a few of your favorite books and authors?
When the English Fall by David Williams
The World Made by Hand Series by James Howard Kunstler
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Untamed: The Wildest Woman in America by Will Harlan
Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos
Bad Boy: A memoir by Walter Dean Myers
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
George by Alex Gino
Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo
I am a huge speculative fiction fan, so basically I read lots of sci fi, fantasy, and horror. Since our library isn’t big on speculative fiction, I know most about YA and graphic novels, particularly action, fantasy, sci fi, superheroes, and books by and about diverse people.
The Foreigner Series by C.J. Cherryh
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek (story) Stuart Immonen (art)